BRITTEN Albert Herring Northern Sinfonia/ Steuart Bedford Classics 70422: Review
Friday 04 April 1997
Does it work? Critical opinion is divided. The score, witty and affectionate as it is in earlier scenes, doesn't quite rise to the final triumph. But there is plenty of fine music in Albert Herring, with some first-rate characterisation: the moralising tyrant, Lady Billows, the solid but awkward Superintendent Budd, the sweetly twittering schoolmistress, Miss Wordsworth. The scenes with the lovers, Sid and Nancy, are touching (there isn't a lot of genuine love music in Britten). And this new version is so warm and high spirited that I found that I at least wanted to believe in Albert's emancipation.
Christopher Gillet is a likeable hero, and the village worthies are all good, especially Josephine Barstow (Lady Billows). Christopher Lloyd (Budd) and Felicity Palmer as the officious housekeeper, Florence Pike.
Steuart Bedford and the Northern Sinfonia approach the score with the love and care that have marked all their Collins/ Britten efforts, and the result is a fine addition to that series. Like their magnificent Turn of the Screw, it gives the lie to any suggestion that Britten's own recordings said it all.
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